LONDON — There are those who wear their heart on their sleeve, and then there’s Stella McCartney, who prefers to sport her green beliefs — not just on her sleeve, but on her bag, boots and coat, too.
The designer is set on Monday to reveal what she calls her “most sustainable collection” yet, with 80 percent of the clothing, footwear and accessories made from environmentally friendly materials, and manufacturing.
The remaining 20 percent includes materials such as brass chains, which are not recyclable although the company has said it is working on solutions to that particular problem.
Brass accounts for 77 percent of the brand’s water pollution impact due mainly to the way that copper, which is a component of brass, is mined, according to the company’s latest report showing the fiscal impact of its business on the environment.
McCartney also believes it’s time to tout her green efforts by way of the clothes themselves, so she’s put detachable patches, medallions and clips onto a variety of pieces in her pre-fall 2021 offer.
The messages say “100 percent recycled nylon” or “100 percent vegan.” Luxury logos with an activist twist.
“When you’re wearing the products, people can see that you have made a choice, a life choice about how you want to consume,” the designer said in a Zoom interview from her studio.
“I like this idea that you can kind of be proud of what you’re wearing, and you can almost teach others by wearing clothes. And your choices can be [impactful] if the information is externalized” on a patch, pin or medallion, she said.
The collection itself riffs on McCartney’s “A to Z Manifesto,” which the designer revealed last year, and which she said would act as “a checklist” for responsible behavior by her brand.
The pre-fall 2021 collection has been inspired by “J, for Joy.” It has a sporty feel, with lots of easy, colorful shapes and cozy layers. Faux furs as big as bear hugs have been done in partnership with Koba, which makes part bio-based, and fully recyclable, fur fibers.
She channeled recycled polyester derived from plastic bottles into fuzzy outerwear with a street feel, and crafted chunky-soled boots from solvent-free materials and sustainably sourced wood.
“I really wanted to look at hope and happiness so there is a kind of boldness of color, a brightness of heart. The collection is really a celebration of life and of humanity. We may not be seeing color right now when we look onto a gray London, but there is, above those clouds a beautiful blue sky,” she said.
McCartney added that she’s thinking increasingly about the quality and lifespan of the individual pieces she makes.
She sees every last button and swatch of fabric as an opportunity to upcycle, or recycle, and said she wants to value “the human work that goes into making each piece. Here, we respect all of the process. But I think our industry is so hugely indulgent and vulgar in the waste we produce.”
Fast fashion is not the only culprit, she argued.
“Luxury has a different kind of waste — it’s not just the consumer choosing to not wear something because it’s cheap and they can dispose of it. It’s more of a mind-set in the luxury industry that needs to be looked at.”
McCartney has had to adjust her own mind-set over the past year, with her company looking at ways to save, and tighten operations, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As reported in July, the company made plans to lay off staff, asked others to reduce their salaries for an extended period, and cut back on activities with an eye on reducing the overall cost base.
McCartney herself, who sold a minority stake in her company to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 2019 and who has been advising its founder Bernard Arnault on sustainability, also stopped taking a salary during lockdown last year.
At the time, the chief executive officer Gabriele Maggio said that in order to survive, the company needed to restructure and reduce the cost base and size of the business, cut spending on projects and activities, and reduce the size of the teams, while still preserving the brand’s sustainability commitments.
As a result of that program, and the extended lockdown in the U.S., McCartney’s company is countersuing its New York landlord in a $10 million rent dispute.
McCartney’s company is pushing back hard on a sub-landlord trying to recoup past and future rent from the brand’s temporarily shuttered Madison Avenue store amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Discussing cost savings and conserving resources, McCartney said items that would have been sold at sample sales, or at a heavy discount or simply left unused, are now the stuff of future collections. The designer said she doesn’t mind spinning leftovers into new collections and insists that her studio will never “throw away or burn anything.”
During the interview she pointed to the swirly lace insets on a long yellow dress, and a black viscose top, which came from old stock.
She said that others might think, “’I don’t like that lace anymore, I am not going to use it. I’m going to throw it away.’ I’m like, ‘Well, I’m not dying over this lace, but I’m going to make it amazing anyway. That in itself is a design challenge that I don’t think a lot of people would take on.
“Maybe the lace is little bit heavier than perhaps we wanted this season, or the design of the lace may be something we’re not as drawn to, but we have to find a way” to work with it, she added.
As reported, McCartney is also happy to use other designers’ dead stock and materials, and is looking at her own samples, fitting garments and cancelled orders in a new light.
“Everyone has a percentage of cancellations. For me, those items can actually become collectible. They have more value, I think, because they don’t go into production.”
While she’s still deciding in what format she’ll present fall 2021, McCartney said the collection itself will most certainly carry the pre-fall DNA. She added that it irks her when people distinguish between “commercial” pre-collections or capsules, and “runway” pieces.
“Every single piece we make is treated with massive importance, so this pre-fall collection will obviously follow through. There is a connective tissue between every season,” the designer said.